JCC Bomb Hoaxer Indicted in Israel; Charged With Threatening to Kill Ex-Pentagon Official's Kids

The teenager allegedly attempted to incriminate Delaware state legislator Ernesto Lopez for criticizing the person behind the threatening calls

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
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The Israeli-American JCC bomb hoax suspect, at a hearing in Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court, March 23, 2017.
The Israeli-American JCC bomb hoax suspect, at a hearing in Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court, March 23, 2017.Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

The Israeli-American youth suspected of making threatening phone calls to Jewish community centers in the United States was charged on Monday in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court with various crimes, including trying to extort a United States senator.

The indictment against the 18-year-old includes allegations that he made threats to 2,000 different institutions around the world, including the Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israeli consulate in Miami, schools, malls, police stations, hospitals and airlines. The crimes cited in the indictment include extortion, publishing false reports causing public panic, conspiring to commit a crime, hacking computers to commit a crime, and violations of money-laundering laws.

Republican senator Ernesto Lopez

According to the indictment, the suspect tried to extort Ernesto Lopez, a Republican senator of Delaware, for criticizing whoever had made the threatening calls. The suspect called Lopez and demanded that he retract his comments, saying that if Lopez failed to, he would fine him in Bitcoin every 72 hours and if he didn’t pay, he would incriminate him on the internet. When the politician did not respond, the suspect ordered drugs online and sent them to his house in order to incriminate him. When the envelopes arrived the suspect threatened to publish pictures attesting to the fact that he had drugs in his house.

Former Pentagon official George E. LittleCredit: Wikimedia Commons

The teenager is also charged with calling George E. Little, a former official at the U.S. Department of Defense, and threatening to kidnap and murder his children.

Charges against the suspect were also filed Friday in Florida. That indictment cites scores of messages graphically describing children’s deaths in calls to Jewish community centers and schools across the United States, using an online calling service to disguise his voice as a woman and hide his identity.

“These threats of violence instilled terror in Jewish and other communities across this country and our investigation into these acts as possible hate crimes continues,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Friday. The indictment lists 28 crimes, including transferring false information and making threatening calls.

Israel’s State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan is opposed to allowing the extradition to the United States of the suspect, who was arrested at his home in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon a month ago.

A formal extradition request has not been filed, but in informal negotiations Israeli justice officials have said they want to prosecute the suspect in Israel. Despite the cooperation with the FBI that led to the suspect's arrest, Nitzan believes the dual citizen should be tried in Israel because of the strong connection between the alleged offenses and the state.

Shira Nir, a lawyer for the suspect , said in a statement on Sunday that the text of the indictment will “clarify once again my client’s medical condition.”

“It seems that every paragraph is additional proof of his inability” to stand trial “as a result of the growth and his emotional state,” Nir said. The suspect's family has claimed since his arrest was made public that the teen suffers from mental illness and a brain tumor that affects his behavior.

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